ZAG Sponsors Identify Trends for 2010
We asked our ZAG sponsors what trends they have noticed for the 2010 season, now that they’ve seen most of their key customers at trade shows or in their showrooms. Here’s what they had to say.
Nicole Rubino of L.A. Mart Gift + Home (California Gift Show) notes that buyers are replenishing their inventories after a strong finish in 2009. Overall, they saw more optimism and higher orders being placed throughout the show from every type of buyer. Buyers are shopping closer to home and are still very cost conscious, looking for items that retail at $49 and under to meet the demands of cost conscious consumers. Some common trends seen in their exhibitors at market were nautical and vintage-themed merchandise, and products incorporating nature, birds and butterflies. Other trends identified were handcrafted items, products made in the USA, Fair Trade items, world/ethnic products, and eco-friendly and sustainable chic products. Tim von Gal of Urban Expositions reported that buyer attendance increased by 70% at their Las Vegas Souvenir & Resort Gift Showthis past September. The next show, scheduled for September 22-24, is expanding with 50% more lines than last year and is offering hotel rates as low as $15.99 (at the newly renovated Tropicana Hotel), allowing buyers to get everything done in one trip.
In apparel, Jolene Marsh says that The Duck Company is well known for their bright and colorful humorous designs. They are finding that for 2010 their accounts are making solid buying decisions based on graphic concepts that have been proven winners in the past, which are the classic Duck designs. Polar Graphics has noticed an increased demand for value-added products, says Ali Shearer. Their “Find Hidden Animals” collection has been a big hit this year because it is unique and entertaining. The collection showcases ten different animals on t-shirts, mugs and totes. From black bears to sea turtles, each design incorporates hidden animals and comes with a sticker that reveals the hidden location. Another example is their Poopin’ Animal Keychains, which although are gross and silly, are definitely a hot item, and they have added a few new animals to their 2011 catalog.
Michele Heritage of EMI Sportswear has been seeing that most buyers are looking for something unique and different, and there has been a strong interest in their unique treatments and washes. Although that might mean a higher price point, the perceived value makes it worth the price. Michele says their early season reorders are showing that this is working with their customers. Mike Galer of Prairie Mountain is finding t-shirt sales strong, especially on value oriented promotional priced goods, since he says they focus on great designs with great pricing. People seem comfortable spending their money on items that are useful and carry a reasonable price tag. Animal stripe youth shirts are retailing extremely well, as are all their glow in the dark designs. Green shirts, either recycled or organic, are a definite growth category in both youth and adult sizes. Good designs and reasonable prices will keep sales strong for several years. Fashion Fit T’s produced from closed end ring spun cotton continue to gain market share as all age groups seem to be buying into the younger, softer feel of these adult shirts.
Price is a driving force these days and Carol Baker of OPI/Ohiopyle Prints is seeing many customers opting for less expensive garments, such as basic tees and sweatshirts. Carol is also seeing a trend towards more simple graphics. OPI’s combo packages have been their hottest sellers. These include a hat/tee, sweatshirt/tee, 2-tee and 3-tee combo, plush/youth tee and a water bottle/tee combo. The customer will recognize the value in these combo packages. Frank Rempe of Jacobson Hats says children’s hats are still very strong with zoos and aquariums. Jacobson has a child’s cap that is doing exceptionally well, a vintage washed w/plaid trim and distressed crown cap with a plaid circle appliqué on the front, style #23494. Jacobson can embroider the circle appliqué with the zoo’s name, initials or even the year the zoo was established.
John Drummond reports that, “the best trend Out of Hand Graphics is seeing is reorders, reorders, reorders. Our reorder business for the 1st quarter was way up over last year. Buyers were cautiously optimistic during the fall trade shows, looking to plan business a little cleaner and closer to their needs and relying on quick fill-ins for the top sellers. Our customers know this approach works well due to our ability and commitment to deliver quickly. This creates better sell-through and a cleaner inventory. Another trend we see is the movement toward diversified types of garments. Whereas the industry used to be confined to printing on a basic t-shirt, the growing buying power of the junior market has created demands for more fashionable garments, such as the long length tees for little girls and the lighter weight slimmer fit tees for guys. The v-neck and heather poly-cotton blends so successful for department stores and mall retailers have also given us a new market for printable garments. While this is not the bulk of the business, it offers a more boutique type of look for the customer that doesn’t want to compromise fashion.”
Royal Resortwear also saw opening orders up over last year, and they have been getting some nice reorders since March 1. Caps and buckets/Aussie hats continue to dominate their zoo line. They have added more applications to their stock caps which enables buyers to purchase four dozen of a style on caps that normally are only available in large quantities done overseas. Angelo Curmaci says they continue to produce great new art and embroidered paw prints, and animal collages are their best selling children’s designs on caps. This year rain forest animals were huge, as well as fringe items for both boys and girls. Angelo suggests everyone read the article from the New York Times about possible price increases in 2011 due to China’s changing economy and work force: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/27/business/global/27yuan.html.
Cherie Lindstrom of Image West Apparel has seen a shift with some buyers ordering closer to due dates and ordering small quantities. They are also watching their inventories closer and sending reorders sooner. Image West has responded with a shorter delivery time on stock designs to get goods back on the shelves sooner. They have had a tremendous response to their dramatic “Jumbo Plus” designs, which sends a clear signal that bold, colorful wildlife designs are still very strong.
Peter Seresky of Nanco/Nancy Sales Co has seen a continuation of two major trends of recent years: green items and short run souvenirs. This year their butterfly rings and full line of butterfly stationary products, both made out of recycled material, have been red hot. They see more and more “green” items available overseas that can be adapted to the demands of our market. The continued success of Nanco’s in-house short run imprint program provides buyers with more and more variety for their shelves. Using the success of their overseas custom program has translated into many orders for their etched glassware, promotionally priced mugs, and neon printed ceramics, to name a few. In addition, all buyers gravitate towards trendy novelties. This year, the shaped rubber band animal bracelets (zoo animals, sea life, dinosaurs) have been a big hit. Jeff Goodner of Dillon Importing noticed during the winter shows that zoo buyers were spending more with them than they did in 2009. Dillon has sold more animal umbrellas this year than ever before. Are buyers predicting a wet season?
The trend David Landez of Esco Imports is seeing is the consumer continues to be price conscious. They are foregoing the highest quality, highest priced products and looking for a balance between quality and price. Esco sees stores thinking outside the box and putting in new items not necessarily themed to their attraction. They understand that the consumer is looking for affordable outings for their families. Warm Fuzzy Toys has always found that offering low priced, fun toys and novelties with interactive elements has been a great formula for success. Shelley says they look for that extra light up, movement or sound element that will surprise and delight kids. Buyers are continuing to watch their dollars and they don’t see this trend ever going away. Warm Fuzzy’s customers have placed cautious orders but with significant reorders coming in regularly, especially on the staples like their Flashing Friends, Water Wigglers, Putty, Tub O’Toys, Growing Animals and Wooden Stamp Sets.
Kalan/Funworks’ Dan Shoemaker says, “In the world of personalized products there have been some major shifts. Although personalized products continue to be tremendous sellers, we have seen increased cautiousness to invest in large rack programs, especially from buyers new to personalized products. Customers are not only looking for an increasingly larger spectrum of ethnically diverse names to choose from, but they’re also trending towards environmentally friendly products. Retailers are looking to decrease the amount of money invested in inventory and floor space. We believe our Eco-Friendly Personalized Name Frames fill all these desires. By offering a customized logo-stamped bamboo frame, which can be filled with recycled cardboard letter tiles (available in both zoo and aquarium themes), we are providing an eco-friendly personalized souvenir which allows the customer to spell any name, any way, in any language. At the same time, retailer do not have money tied up in slower selling names and massive displays.”
Kiley Rose of Play Visions/Club Earth has noticed that although their zoo and aquarium business has really increased in total dollars, the number of products being bought has decreased. Buyers seem to be pinpointing innovative products that are very unique, vs buying the normal open market toys they used to. One example of this that combines a low price point with a unique aspect and has done very well with their zoo customers is Play Vision’s new Trunk Sipper ($2.50 cost, #SIEL), a soft flexible elephant trunk with a tube inside. It makes you look like you’ve got your own elephant trunk and takes the crazy straw to a whole new level. Puzzled focuses on basic educational toys that help bond the family with many hours of educational play time while targeting different age groups. Jay Cohen said they recently brought in illuminated 3D puzzles with bright and attractive colors to create a high perceived value, and Glow in the Dark 3D puzzles. All the 3D puzzles have pre cut pieces and number matching instructions. For younger children Puzzled carries Peg, Fun, Raised, Shaped and the new Magnetic Fishing puzzles. Buyers that need a custom design, package or name drop can contact them.
Rhode Island Novelty/Adventure Planet’s John Fitzsimmons found buyers were ready to spend money because they held back in 2009 due to the sluggish economy. The magic retail price seems to be $9.99 and under for school groups and $19.99 for the general public. Their Adventure Planet Half Pints are doing extremely well because it is almost impossible to find a quality piece of plush that retails for $4.99, and their sewn in eye “Shaggys” are selling very well because buyers are retailing them for $8.99 to 9.99. Their animated PVC (AT-Safc6 safari and AT-DINC6 dinosaur) have been a home run for younger school kids. Skullduggery carries a line of about 20 animal themed Eyewitness craft kits that cover zoo (lions, elephants, giraffes) and aquarium themes (dolphin, whales, penguins). Peter Koehl has found that attractions with trains have had luck with their train Eyewitness kit. Beginning with the 2009 fall shows in Gatlinburg and Sevierville, Safari LTD has experienced an upsurge in buying from zoos and aquariums, which Ramona Pariente feels were positively impacted by the tight economy since people are looking for fun experiences the entire family can share. As an example, adults as well as young children love their extremely realistic replicas, such as their large sized Incredible Creatures and Wildlife Wonders collections, which are both educational and child friendly.
Sylvan Dell Publishing has seen orders placed with a larger variety of their children’s picture books this year compared to 2009, say Rob Carli. What’s the Difference? An Endangered Animal Subtraction Story is a new release that has been added to most orders, along with Felina’s New Home: A Florida Panther Story, Little Red Bat and Panda’s Earthquake. These new titles and all 50 of their educational titles can be previewed atwww.SylvanDellPublishing.com, along with free online resources which add value to the books. They are offering free unlimited eBook access to all ZAG members for their education departments, which is expected to generate more sales in the gift shops. Contact Rob at email@example.com for more information.
USA-made products continues to be a trend, and Mr. Ellie Pooh’s “poo happens…!” line of cards and stationery are now being designed and letter pressed here in the USA, says Dr. Karl Wald. Efirstname.lastname@example.org for a free card sample for all ZAG members. Western Woods has seen a big shift in their jewelry category to stone pendants in the way of crystal points and other natural stones. Daren Aitken is also seeing a larger amount of customers purchasing lessexpensive stone and mineral specimens (wholesale $.60-$.75) and retailing them at $1.99. Buyers have been placing bigger orders for 2010 compared to 2009, and this has created an increase in 1st quarter business. Western Woods has developed new display packages to capture the shift to less expensive specimens. Marc St. Pierre of Cool Jewels has found consumers are buying with more price sensitivity for spring 2010 than in recent years. They continue to purchase their souvenirs but are drawn to items at a lower retail, such as $9.99 and under, which have increased year after year. Cool Jewels’ colorful cord bracelets packaged on small point of sale counter displays have been a huge hit this spring, offering guests a low $3.99 retail and retailers an 8x mark up. Their “Save the Planet” and “Go Green” key pendant necklaces, with a variety of endangered animals and symbols that promote earth conservation and animal awareness, are selling well. Cool Jewels is still experiencing strong sales and an up-trend on animal mood and UV items as well, again all items selling for $3.99 to $8.99.
Squire Boone Village (SBV) noticed an increase in buyer attendance at trade shows beginning in mid 2009, with orders being placed similar to pre 9/11 levels. Karen Dutton also mentions buyers are branching out and ordering smaller quantities of a larger variety of items from their six divisions to hit $1200 to qualify for SBV’s free freight program, instead of going heavy on just a few items. This allows buyers to cut down on the amount of backstocked inventory without missing out on huge freight savings. One category that has done very well for SBV are zoo and ocean pencil climbers and sharpeners, which have a high perceived value, low price point, high gross margin, low minimum order quantity and can include a custom imprint.
The season started out with a bang for In the Breeze, manufacturer and distributor of outdoor decorative décor, and shows no signs of slowing down. Trade shows have generated new customers and they are getting even larger orders from existing customers. According to Anne Seile, their #1 selling category last year, baby bugs and baby birds, is again flying out the door, with a cost of $3.50 and a retail of $9.99-12.99. Their themed twister category is running a close second with the addition of their new zoo and aquarium styles, with a $7.50 cost less 10% for ZAG members. For a catalog of their other lines, include appliqué and dye sublimated kites, call 800-487-1417 or login at www.inthebreeze.com as an existing customer with password itb2004.
While NICI is new to the US market, they are leaders in the European plush and accessory categories for zoo and aquarium gift shops with their “Wild Friends” and “Forest Friends” assortments. Kevin Vining says zoo buyers are very conscious of keeping children in mind when planning their assortment, since children are driving the purchasing decisions in the gift shop. They are looking for their favorite animal in a soft, cuddly plush that also has character and personality. It is also important that buyers build incremental sales. NICI adds 2 to 3 new full range character worlds each year with coordinated character programs and accessories like key chains, magnetic MagNICIs, pencils, cases and stationery.
Michael Howe of Fiesta is seeing a trend towards brighter colors in plush. Right now pinks, bluesand greens are selling well. Also popular is value/promo plush and unique materials with different design patterns in sherbet colors. Parents can buy a super soft, great size piece of plush for $10.00. Fiesta offers a value line called “Swirls” available in monkeys, lions, tigers, hippos, elephants as well as a full selection of sea life “Swirls.”
Anne Worton of Wishpets offers these trends for 2010:
Animaland, the interactive plush stuffing leader, realizes that the recession severely affected destination locations. Because floor space is limited and gift shops need to maximize retail space, Animaland plans to offer a new stuffing machine package this summer at $2995 which will include $3000 of retail inventory along with a new tabletop stuffing machine. Now all ZAG members can take advantage of the interactive stuffing craze. Call or email Rebecca Gray at 800-511-0654 orRebecca@animaland.com for more information. Bears2Go ended 2009 with more than 9% growth over 2008, and their 2010 1st quarter sales are up 11% over last year. Dennis Kalian attributes the growth in such a tough economic environment to bringing in a lot of new designs and styles like their signature zoo line of plush skins, as well as increasing their custom merchandise for their clients. Bears2Go increased their inventories and the number of new products while other companies seemed to narrow their product line and reduce their inventory levels. Bears2Go also offered their customers a lot of advice about what were the best sellers in each line. Go to www.bears2go.com for more information.
- An increase in customized plush for themed exhibits or a special event. Orders for their name-dropped safari vest have been very strong for 2010.
- Adding value, like Wishpets’ line of lollipops with finger puppet plush continues to grow.
- Baby safe, such as a trend toward sewn in eyes. Wishpets collection of colorful chenille fabric is infant safe while offering fun fashion at an affordable retail.
- Perceived value, offering a well made product for under $10. Wishpets new polar bear “stack” collection has been selling very well. The 11” floppy polar bear can easily retail for under $10, and the bear comes in five sizes and makes a very cute display when they are stacked on top of each other.